George A. Romero
George A. Romero
Duane Jones as Ben
Judith O’Dea as Barbara
Karl Hardman as Harry Cooper
Marilyn Eastman as Helen Cooper
Keith Wayne as Tom
Judith Ridley as Judy
I sit here, in front of my laptop, staring at the screen pondering on where one begins when writing a review on the greatest horror movie ever made (IMHO). Night of the Living Dead is the film that started not just me, but many people on the path of “zombie masterdom”. There is probably no movie that has had as much impact on the horror genre as NOTLD. George A. Romero (director, cinematographer, editor, and co-writer) is responsible for catapulting the zombie from a voodoo-induced mindless slave to a true flesh-eating monster. I mean, come on, we are talking about royalty here. Well, here goes.
Night of the Living Dead begins with Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) driving to visit a grave site. Johnny is complaining about having to go and is teasing Barbara about being afraid of cemeteries. Once there though, her fear is justified when they are attacked by a zombie (BTW they are never called zombies in the film). Barbara barely escapes with her life, but not her mind.
Barbara makes her way to a farm house where she meets up with Ben (Duane Jones) who ends ups being the hero more out of necessity than anything else.
Barbara and Ben soon discover that a family with a sick child and a younger couple has been hiding in the farmhouse basement. With each others help (somewhat) the group barricades the farm house doors and windows and work to discover what is happening and what to do next.
Night of the Living Dead was shot on 35mm grainy black and white film and the total budget came in at $114,000. It also is one of the most ground breaking horror films of all time. Calling NOTLD influential would be an understatement. Elements from Night of the Living Dead can be seen in the works of Raimi, Carpenter, and Hooper and in titles such as The Exorcist, The Blair Witch Project, and 28 Days Later.
Romero put the movie industry on notice with his graphic shots of blood, guts and gore. There was no MPAA or ratings board at the time, but no one had been willing to step outside the status quo. Romero was the first to do so not by asking if it could be done but by simply asking why it hadn’t been done yet. When released, NOTLD was met with controversy because of its graphic nature but went on to be a drive-in success.
A lot of young film makers took notice as well. They realized that you didn’t need a large budget to see your vision come to life. NOTLD was filmed on black and white film, not because Romero thought it would add to the character of the movie but because it was cheaper than color. The blood was Bosco chocolate syrup, which looks just like blood in b/w.
Night of the Living Dead put audiences on notice too. No longer was the horror movie just a place to take your girl friend in hopes of having her jump into your arms. Now there were graphic depictions of murder and death intermingled with social overtones meant to inspire and produce thought. The horror fan became more mature over night. There was a new standard by which all others would be compared. The bar had just been raised. If you have never seen Night of the Living Dead, do yourself a favor and watch it. It will change the way you watch movies, not just horror. One word of warning though; Stay away from any version that has “30th Anniversary” or “colorized” on it. The less you know the better off you will be, just take my word for it.
By The Zombie Master, Lee Roberts